Hmm…let me see, when was the last time there was a movie about aliens, that wasn’t about them trying to either destroy humanity, enslave them or destroy the earth itself?
Actually, has there been a popular movie in the last 10-20 years that had aliens that were more of an allegory about humanity and the amount of prejudice that we harbor for those not like us?
We, if you are like me and cannot think of one, District 9 has come to change all that. Hidden amongst the visuals of flying mother ships and exoskeleton machines is a story of relationships. Built largely on the themes of racism and xenophobia, District 9 is a sharply crafted movie, which conveys its points as well as entertains the audience at the same time.
Imagine if in the late 90s a space crafts settles over the city Johannesburg, South Africa. There is no movement or action from the vessel for quite sometime after it arrives. So, the government sends the military to investigate. Upon, entering the ship they find a large group of insect like beings. Malnourished and leaderless, they are transported from the ship to a holding area and refugee camp called District 9 .
20 years later, the depth of the relationship between humans and the alien refugees is more clearly seen. Treated as second class citizen, and derisively called "Prawns" (a term referenced to a cricket that has plagued Capetown, South Africa. The aliens are isolated in slums reminiscent of Sao Paolo, Brazil, dilapidated piles of trash.
Policing over the population of aliens is a private military company called MNU. New promoted MNU operative Wikus van de Merwe is put incharge of evicting the aliens from their current abode to a new location, District 10, which is 200 miles away from Johannesburg.
Through Wikus’s attempts to evict the alien population one hovel at a time, we see the level of hate and derision harbored by humans for the aliens. Further, the aliens’ technology is being taken and attempted to be exploited by MNU, who has yet been able to unlock how to function most of the alien weaponry.
When he can use the Alien technology we see the length that various parties take to use him for these new abilities. Forced to hide in District 9 , and ally himself with the same beings he hated days before Wikus’s life is put in the very tentacles that he has so heartlessly evicted and scorned.
Obviously much more happens in the movie, but hopefully this gives you a good understanding of what you have in store for you. Believe me the action in the movie lives up to the popcorn movie status that its release date merits.
For a movie that was made for $30 million, the visual effect rivals those made for 3 or 4 times more (Wolverine, GI Joe to mention a few). But then again, the movie doesn’t really go too overboard with the effects. The aliens are bi pedal so in essence so they were played by humans in costume (if they really are CGI, forget the paragraph above and substitute that the effects were freakin’ amazing) Most of the action is done in close quarters, and the larger mothership is only see in a handful of scenes.
All in all, the best thing about the movie is its work on relationships. We see glimpses of relationships between man and alien, man and wife, man and government, father and son, father and daughter etc. It is the interplay between these relationships that really move the movie forwards and presents them in an unpretentious manner.
Also, by having no "star" level actors in the film, I really felt as if these chacacters were real and normal people. Without the anchor or point of reference of a familiar face, the reality of the situation becomes even more visceral to the viewer, where this could really happen to anyone of us. It is a credit to the director, Neal Blomkamp, who juggles the need to provide an entertaining and action filled two hours along with a revealing message about human nature at the same time.